We just celebrated Easter Sunday 2023. I hope your church had a wonderful time celebrating the power of the resurrection together!
However, we proclaim the powerful reality of the resurrection every single week as we gather. For almost 2,000 years, New Testament churches have met together on the first day of the week to sing, pray, give and hear the Word proclaimed.
And believers have been compelled to continue this practice because of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible makes clear that our hope in life and death comes from the risen Lord. So then, it would make sense that the hope for our churches – whether thriving or dying – is found in the resurrection as well.
If the resurrection is false, we have no hope.
That may sound harsh, but it’s what Paul says: “If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain, and so is your faith” (1 Cor. 15:14, CSB).
If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our churches are, at best social clubs. If the resurrection isn’t real, we have no real purpose in gathering other than to get together and help each other feel better about ourselves. In fact, Paul goes on to say that if it isn’t real, “we should be pitied more than anyone” (1 Cor. 15:19).
If the resurrection isn’t real, it doesn’t matter if local churches cease to exist.
If the resurrection is true, we have unlimited hope.
However, if the resurrection is true (as Scripture clearly proclaims), then we have reason for unlimited hope! If the resurrection is real, then dying churches proclaim a lie about God to their community – “The all-powerful God of the universe Himself, the very one who raised Christ from the dead, couldn’t keep this church alive!”
As Mark Clifton asks, “What about a dying church gives glory to God?” This is a serious question.
The fact is, however, Christ has been raised from the dead! (1 Cor. 15:20, CSB)
If God has the power to raise Christ from the dead, do not underestimate what He can do with a stuck and struggling church that gathers every week to worship Him and proclaim His word. The same God who raised Christ can restore His church to a place of health and vitality.
The resurrection shows the purpose of revitalization.
I’m amazed every time I read the story of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. As God calls Ezekiel to speak, He brings new life to the army of the Lord that had just moments before been nothing but a group of dry, decaying bones. God uses this object lesson to explain to Ezekiel what He’s about to do with His people, Israel. God declares, “Then you will know that I am the Lord” (Ez. 37:14).
When Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, there was no doubt God had done something amazing. And the same God is still at work in the world around us! He still has a plan for even the most hard-hearted churches. If we will surrender to Him, He can bring once-dying churches back to a place of life, health and vibrant ministry in their communities. And He can – and will! – do it in such a way that all who see it will not say, “Look what that pastor did” but “Look what the Lord has done here!”
The ultimate goal of revitalization is not that your church will meet budget or that you’ll have really cool children’s and youth programs. The goal of revitalization is the glory of God in your community.
Rest in that reality. Bank your hope for your life and the life of your church on the reality of the resurrection. Then trust Him to do what He does best: bring life where there once was only death.
Published April 14, 2023